Jackie Johnson prodded to seek Alaska Senate seat

Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Johnson-Pata is being lobbied by top Democrats to seek the United States Senate seat from Alaska in 2020.  That seat is currently held by freshman Republican Dan Sullivan, and is seen as one of the Democrats’ only potential pick up opportunities on an otherwise difficult electoral map.

Johnson-Pata is the nation’s leading tribal rights advocate in Washington, DC, and serves as the Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, comprised of nearly three hundred member tribes.  She is a member of the Raven/Sockeye Clan of the Tlingit Tribe, near Juneau.

The State’s population is 15% Alaska Native, by far Alaska’s largest constituency of unaligned swing voters.  By the last census count, the State was home to only 710,231 residents.  With such a small electorate, an opportunity to mobilize far-flung rural voters, and a candidate with an extensive national network of relationships among a constituency that is looking to enhance its influence in Washington — have some Democrat operatives salivating over an otherwise uncompetitive race.

It’s unclear that Johnson-Pata is even a Democrat. As Indian Country’s most influential lobbyist for the last two decades, she has offered no hints of her personal political affiliations.  It was once rumored that she had been patiently awaiting the eventual (but unhurried) retirement of Rep. Don Young, intending to serve as his Republican successor several terms down the line.

American Indians and Alaska Natives are among the least party-affiliated constituencies in the country.  Many tribes have experienced considerable economic growth in tobacco, gaming, resource extraction, and other industries, and have been looking to evolve their political presence in Washington.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has been taking heat from some inside his party who are disappointed that he was unable to take control of his chamber.  The 2020 Senate electoral map looks even more difficult for Democrats.  Will they be able to field moderate candidates in centrist states who can still excite the left flank of the party?

Following the election of two Native American women to Congress for the first time in 2018, many tribes have been recruiting prospective candidates to field for federal office in Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Dakota.

Johnson-Pata serves as Vice President for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; as a Board Member of the National Museum of the American Indian; as a member of the Native American Advisory Council for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America; and on the Board of the Sealaska Corporation, an Alaska Native regional corporation.

Pata has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Native American Programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; as the Executive Director of the Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority headquartered in Juneau, Alaska; as Vice-Chair of the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation; as Chairperson of the National American Indian Housing Council; and on the National Community Development Financial Institution Fund Advisory Board, an advisory board to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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